Look to the Sky for Predicting Hunting Success

Much of my youth was spent on a northern Minnesota farm where the ability to predict tomorrow’s weather had a lot to do with how successful a farmer was at growing crops. No farmhouse I knew of back then lacked a current edition of The Farmer’s Almanac, noted for its accurate long-range weather predictions. For day-to-day weather changes, however, my grandfather Nordberg regularly looked to the sky for answers. If, for example, he saw high clouds that looked like mare’s tails blowing in the wind or herring bones, he’d likely say, “We’ll have to wait a few days before we can cut hay,” such clouds generally meaning it was going to rain within the next 12-36 hours. Being avid deer hunters, us youngsters learned early certain weather phenomena also portended tomorrow’s hunting success.

For example, if the western sky at sunset is yellow, wind will be strong the following day. Knowing whitetails bed early when the wind exceeds 9–10 mph or remain bedded while wind exceeds 15 mph, refusing to even feed or drink water until the wind subsides at sunset, we have long made it a rule to get to our stand sites well before first light the next morning, taking full advantage of the 2–3 hour daylight period when the air will still be calm or the wind light. Strong winds generally do not become strong enough to make whitetails scurry to their secluded beds until about 9–10 AM.

If the western horizon at sunset is gray (cloudy), rain or snow is likely during the night and the next morning. If light to moderate precipitation is falling before first light the next morning, whitetails will nonetheless be active until mid-morning. If precipitation is heavy at that time, it might be better to sleep in, but remember the old farmer’s saying, “Rain before seven quits before eleven (not 100% true),” after which whitetails everywhere will suddenly begin feeding for an hour or two. The first heavy snowfall of winter (six or more inches) is likely to keep whitetails in their beds until the second night following the storm.


If the western sky is a brilliant red at sunset (I call it a “deer hunter’s sunset”), expect great hunting the following morning, perhaps all day. The sky will be blue, the wind will be calm or light and whitetails will be active later than usual. There may be heavy frost at sunrise, which is great, whitetails then certain to be active until 10-11 AM when the sun begins melting the frost away. It might be foggy at sunrise, which is also great because whitetails will be very active until the fog lifts. Don’t miss a minute of legal hunting time during a day following a red sunset, a day when your odds for hunting success will be at their peak…that is if you truly understand what the word “skilled” in “skilled deer hunting” means.

(Here are a couple of more examples of red Hunter’s Sunsets.)



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